T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Supergirl: Rebirth #1 marked the relaunch of Kara Zor-El in the current DC Comics continuity under the stewardship of writer Steve Orlando and penciller Emanuela Lupacchino. The standalone one-shot issue that set the stage for the Girl of Steel’s forthcoming solo title was released on Wednesday. T. Kyle King, ComiConverse’s reviewer of every comic book with an “S” on it, offers his thoughts.
Zor-El made some dubious decisions in Argo City, Kara has lost her powers, and Cameron Chase is the skeptical director of the D.E.O. debating whether to trust Superman’s cousin. Can this really be “Supergirl’s last hope… for a second chance”?
(Small spoilers follow!)
Supergirl: Rebirth #1 Synopsis:
After Argo City survived the destruction of Krypton, Zor-El quarantined Lar-On to the Phantom Zone until his red kryptonite sickness could be cured. On present-day Earth, the D.E.O. has sent Zor-El’s 16-year-old daughter, Kara, into the sun’s core in an experimental craft equipped with phantom drive and a Kryptonian regeneration matrix, in the hope of recharging the solar batteries in her cells.
Although the plan works and Supergirl’s powers are restored, the phantom drive opens a rift that releases Lar-On, whose red kryptonite-induced werewolfism flares up beneath the full moon over the D.E.O. ghost site. Kara returns to Earth and aids in halting the attack by her fellow citizen of Argo City, reasoning with Lar-On as well as combating him. With misgivings, Chase provides Kara with “full-time handlers” — Agents Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers — and a secret identity as their daughter, National City high school student Kara Danvers.
Supergirl: Rebirth #1 Analysis:
I don’t know if you know this, but Supergirl is kind of a big deal right now.
Her fans are gearing up for the second season of Kara Zor-El’s television series after the first year of the show — now available in a DVD box set, by the way — was good family fun unabashedly focused on feminist themes that managed to avoid both the dreary darkness of the DCEU films and the pervasive angst of the early Smallville. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Maiden of Might’s return to her own publication comes with a few tweaks that take the comic book version of the character closer to her small screen incarnation.
Hence, Eliza and Jeremiah are an integral part of Supergirl: Rebirth #1 from the get-go, providing not only useful exposition but also no small degree of character development. Eliza watches Kara’s ship take off, wondering wistfully whether this was “how her real parents felt”, before Jeremiah’s arrival sets off a handful of panels of family banter among the married couple and their foster daughter. Orlando’s script thus manages to convey a great deal about the characters and involve the audience in their emotional lives in a remarkably brief span.
Nevertheless, this issue is not so beholden to the popular television series that it jettisons altogether any ties to Krypton’s long history on the printed page, in spite of the fact that this version of Supergirl is assigned the secret identity of Kara Danvers, rather than Linda Lee. The Earthbound events of Supergirl: Rebirth #1, for instance, open at D.E.O. Ghost Site #252, in homage to Kara’s first appearance in Action Comics #252. Lar-On’s accidental emergence from the Phantom Zone likewise mirrors his debut in World’s Finest #256. These nice nods by Orlando showed respect for the heritage of the comic books in the midst of incorporating more modern elements from another medium.
The result is a carefully crafted blend of the best parts of the old and the new that does justice both to the fan steeped in the legacy of long boxes and to the fan who came to the comics by way of the television show. Orlando succeeds in weaving these strands together in a manner apt to satisfy fans of every generation and medium chiefly because he wisely has chosen to concentrate on Kara’s core characteristics. Supergirl: Rebirth #1 certainly showcases its title character’s unique combination of youthful exuberance, mature compassion, and optimism in spite of her awareness of being an outsider.
This distinctive spirit is conveyed by Lupacchino and colorist Michael Atiyeh on the cover — where a slightly smiling Supergirl looks out at the reader in flight with a subtle sunny gleam in her eye — and continued inside from the first: Kara is confident and capable of playful kidding even as she rides a rocket into the heart of the sun in a state of uncertainty concerning her powers and her future. Considering how badly her cousin handled the loss of his superhuman abilities in Truth, and how poorly her father dealt with Lar-On’s condition in this issue’s opening scene, the heroine’s upbeat outlook in Supergirl: Rebirth #1 shows at the very start that she has strengths not shared by every member of the House of El.
When the reborn Supergirl bursts forth from the sun restored, therefore, her response to a cry for help heard over her D.E.O. comm link is self-assured: “I can.” She then does, returning to Earth to rescue her fellow agents from the Kryptonian werewolf they erroneously have been confronting as a villain rather than aiding as a victim. Kara carries Lar-On away from her colleagues, holds him at bay without harming him, and empathetically interjects mercy into the melee. Orlando makes good use of 20 well-paced pages to convey the essence of his heroine.
The art of Lupacchino, Atiyeh, and inker Ray McCarthy is stylistically suited to the mood of Supergirl: Rebirth #1. As was the case with her work on Starfire, Lupacchino offers detailed backgrounds, clean lines, and a non-exploitative portrayal of the female lead. Giving Kara a tasteful costume was one of the best decisions the producers of the television program made, and the imagery of this issue carefully and correctly avoids any inappropriate emphasis, for reasons the writer explained with admirable forthrightness:
Just to note, if you come to #SUPERGIRL looking for cleavage or a sexual pose from a sixteen year old girl, the book may not be for you.
— Steve Orlando (@thesteveorlando) August 16, 2016
Supergirl: Rebirth #1, in sum, is a promising start that hits on all cylinders and sounds all the right notes. The story keeps the action lively, avoids any awkwardness in the exposition, and highlights the characteristics at the heart of each cast member by letting them speak sentences of crisp dialogue and put their principles into action. This standalone installment ends with a cliffhanger, but no such inducement to buy the new series’ debut was necessary; the handiwork of the creative team was strong enough already to make the audience enthusiastic for whatever comes next.
Whether you’ve known Kara Zor-El since the Silver Age or you first encountered her on television last fall, we welcome you to ComiConverse with us in the comments!
Let us know what you thought of Supergirl: Rebirth #1!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
This effective blend of eclectic and essential elements gave Supergirl a great start with a lot of heart.